Street Photography with Fuji XPro1

NOTE:  All images shot on Fuji XPro1 and Fujinon 35mm 1.4 lens with autofocus only.

We've had our hands on the Fuji XPro1 for about a week now, and starting to get used to it and its nuances. Yesterday myself and a few friends met up in Soho and headed over to Temple Street in Kowloon which is a great little area for street photography with vibrant buzzing markets and even more vibrant characters around the place.

After a short trip on the ferry across the harbour, we walked up Canton Road, which has a lot of the big brand shops and is always full of characters, a great area to warm up before hitting the markets further into Kowloon.  You can always be sure to see hundreds of mainland tourists spending their fortunes around here on designer brands.

This was the first full day of shooting the XPro1 in this environement for me, and using only the 35mm 1.4 Fujinon lens in full autofocus mode (I believe the manual focus with the fuji lenses is totally useless as its fly by wire only), which means there is no tactile connection between you and camera/lens...its way too slow.  If using manual focus with other lenses such as the Leica lenses, its brilliant, I don't know why they insists on developing a fly by wire manual focus system, it really is completely unusable in my opinion unless you use it exclusively for 'zone focussing'.

So, I decided to shoot everything with autofocus.  There has been much debate about the AF capabilities of this camera in light of the X100 problems.  I can say this....yes, its not perfect, however, it is pretty fast (if the camera is kept awake) and it nailed 95 percent of my shots without a problem.

I shoot very fast when in the streets, so normally i use zone focussing, so using AF was almost a step back for me, however, I think this environment was the perfect test for this camera, as I believe many people are looking at the Fuji as a viable street photography/travel photography replacement for their DSLR or even as an alternative to the Leica M system such as M8/M9.

I shot everything in RAW, converted via the Fuji software supplied with the camera, then edited in Lightroom 4 using VSCO film presets set to Kodak Portra 400 for all images other than the black and white conversion using Niksoft Silver Efex Pro 2.

A quick note on the VSCO film presets - If you are looking for a good film emulation preset for lightroom, then look no further, these really are good, I have hundreds of presets and I keep going back to these ones, I believe they are the most realistc set available, and I am eagerly awaiting a specialist set from the for Leica and who knows maybe a Fuji specific set also, as they tweak camera calibration settings in RAW also, not just basic adjustments, they have camera specific versions for Canon and Nikon already, as well as a generic set for other cameras for now, and they have promised to release Leica specific profiles, which I hope to get my hands on as soon as possible.

The markets around Temple street - as you can see from these pictures have a diverse mix of characters.  Although its probably classed as a 'tourist friendly' area, there are still a lot of things going on behind the scenes here, with triad activity and in particular prostitution clearly visible on the streets even in the middle of the day.  Any photographer visiting this area should be aware that most of these girls will react quite adversely if photographed....some are friendly of course and don't seem to mind....however, if unsure, then my advice would be just stay well away from shooting anyone you think may react negatively.

I noticed many muslim girls around the markets when we were shooting, so approached them to ask permission to take their picture as they were wearing some great colours.  All of them were more than happy to be photographed.

The Autofocus on the Fuji had no problem at any stage with shooting a diverse mix of subjects, and as the image below shows, shooting into the sun, (sometimes difficult for autofocus), there was again no problems with the performance.

Two of the young ladies accompanying us on this 'photo walk' were Becky and Cheryl, both previous attendees of the street photography workshop, Becky was keen on shooting her 5DII using zone focussing to get her shots, whilst Cheryl preferred to use her new Canon S100 (I think that's what it was), for speedy and discreet street shooting.

This gentleman below was a great subject I thought, he was just squatted on the road, laughing continuously, and was more than happy to be photographed.  I noticed on closer look that he had a cigarrete in one hand and 3 spares in the other!!! Thats what I call chain smoking!.

The only lens that I used during this trip was the Fujinon 35mm 1.4, which so far I must say is a great lens (as long as not using manual focus - way too slow), normally I shoot much wider for street photography and closer to my subjects, but this seemed to work well on this day for me.   I keep emphasising about the autofocus - and again you can see from the image above, quicky focussing on the cigarretes on the bottom left corner of the frame, it had no problem locking on and giving me the desired focus point.

The total time we were in the markets was only about 2 hours, and I found the camera consistently delivered the results I needed.  I have tried this camera with a Leica M mount adaptor and the 35mm F2 ASPH lens also, and the results were quite spectacular, very clean and sharp images, very easy to focus using the EVF its really great with an M mount lens for this, my wish would be that it had 'focus peaking' similar to the NEX-7, then there would be no need for me to zoom in to fine tune focus using the rear dial, especially with wide lenses as its a bit harder to fine tune the focus than with a longer focal length lens.

This fantastic gentleman was more than happy to let me take his portrait and yet again the fast performance of the Fuji XPro1 had no issues nailing the shot for me.  Something else I have noticed is that the metering system of the camera seems to overexpose about half a stop most of the time...I consistently left the camera set to -1 or -2/3 to get more accurate exposures, but this is not a problem for me, I just think it takes a little bit of practice, figure out where all the buttons are (there are a lot on this camera that are easy to press by accident...) then it will be fine.  It's just like any other camera tool, we need a bit of time learning our way round it, and then there won't be any issues.

Overall I am very pleased with this camera when using it for street photography.  Being a similar size to my Leica M9, the feel was quite similar and I believe its a perfect size for this style of photography.  People aren't really intimidated by a camera this size compared to a DSLR with a big zoom lens, its ultra light (maybe feels even a little too light for me - again i'm comparing the the tank like construction of the Leica which many won't like).

So my final thoughts are as follows:

Recommended for street photography - A BIG YES.

Recommended to switch if you already have a Leica M9 - personally NO, but I think many will....

Recommended for manual focus with Fuji lenses - NO WAY!

Recommended for manual focus with M lenses - YES, REALLY WORKS GREAT.

Recommended for anyone wishing to switch from DSLR or looking for travel photography camera - YES YES YES.

So, I won't be swapping it for my Leica just yet....but I can still highly recommend the camera, its ergonomically great, looks the part, and I personally haven't had any serious issues with autofocus.

I have another blog post using this camera at night with a 50mm 0.85 lens from SLR Magic, if interested to see the image from that, please click here.

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F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

SLR MAGIC 50mm 0.95 Hyperprime (FIRST LOOK)

(First shots wide open  in Lan Kwai Fong) Anyone that shoots Leica M cameras may have heard the buzz that is going around currently about this new 50mm lens that is due to come out later in 2012.

We were lucky enough to meet Andrew Chan from SLR MAGIC who let us have a play with a prototype lens here in Hong Kong for a few hours.

Something I must state up front is that firstly I am in no way affiliated with SLR MAGIC or Leica, so my opinion is completely unbiased.

Secondly, I have never even touched a Leica Noctilux lens, which of course is the only other lens in this category (unless you consider the Voigtlander 50 1.1), and to which people are comparing this lens, therefore I cannot compare quality, bokeh or any other details.

I am only qualifed to tell you what I think as a working professional and extremely passionate street photographer my views on what I thought about the lens after an hour or so of playing with it.

Please note that none of the pictures here have had any sharpening applied to them, only minor colour and tone adjustments.

We met Andrew in Lan Kwai Fong in Central, a great place to shoot in low light as there is plenty of street lighting, alleyways and of diverse characters to shoot.  Also that night it was raining which added a certain ambience to the light.

I was running a street photography workshop with Eric Kim from LA this last weekend so he joined us and posed as my subject for a few of my first test shots, which have now landed as his profile pic on his website and facebook page:-)

We will be running many more of these street photography and travel workshops regularly by the way for anyone interested, check our website here (apologies for the quick plug to my own business..:-))

(Eric Kim posing for the hyperprime...focussing was perfectly accurate at 0.7 metres)

I do own a Leica 50mm 1.4 pre-asph lens which is extremely sharp and I am very much in love with this lens, so I wanted to compare the two, not really for sharpness but more to see how big the difference in BOKEH (background blur) was between 1.4 and 0.95 and if I thought the difference was substantial enough for me to consider buying the hyperprime when it is available.

So my first thoughts in brief for this first look are as follows:

1.  Its damn heavy (as expected), its a very big piece of glass, so this is no surprise...I don't mind this fact, heavy glass means quality as far as I'm concerned.

2. The build quality feels great, very very solid...I love the smooth 'no click' aperture ring...very very cool, and lovely built in sliding hood and screw on lens cap.

3. Its gonna be expensive...nowhere near as expensive as a Noctilux of course, but its gonna be a lot more expensive than the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 (I have used that lens, and unfortunately I'm not a big fan of that particular lens although for the price it is still very acceptable for many people).

4.  The BOKEH is AMAZING!!  Yes, I compared it to all I had available...which is a 1.4 and of course there is a big difference between the two.

5.  Its damn SHARP wide open....I took about 100 shots with it, all wide open...and found about 90% of the shots were pin sharp where I focussed, I am sure any mis-focussed shots were only down to me, not the lens.

(Eric Kim  in Lan Kwai Fong)

Please bear in mind that I am not a technical be honest, none of my Leica lenses are coded, I don't notice any problems or differences between other lenses that are coded that I have used, maybe I'm lucky, or just ignorant...I don't look that hard, I just want to make strong images, and I'm more concerned with my subject matter.  I don't get too excited about whether a lens has a very slight vignette effect, MTF charts or slight barrel distortion...I'm a photographer...not a scientist :-)...Most imperfections in my opinion (especially vignette or barrel distortion can be fixed in Lightroom 3 in about 2 seconds, and even quicker if u set up a lens profile preset that if you had any issues, so could easily be fixed on import without ever having to do anything).

Just to note on my previous paragraph, I didn't see any vignette or distortion with this lens, but i didn't test it for these factors either, as I said I tested it as a photographer who shoots low light portraits and street photography.

To summarise, are these very few points that I have addressed enough to make me want to buy one?....the short answer is YES...I want one NOW.

I will be contacting Andrew at SLR Magic to get my name on the list...I will buy one as soon as they are available...not because I'm a gearhead (that's debatable among my friends :-)) but purely because I LOVE to shoot in very low light...I love BOKEH....and I love to save a bit of money where I can...there's no way I can afford a Noctilux...the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 is not in the same league in my personal this is where SLR MAGIC is going to fill the gap with regards price...but with quality I suspect they may well overtake the Noctilux....I really can't fault this invention and I hope the production copies are as accurately calibrated as the prototype I played with.

The camera world is very exciting at the moment, and I'm very positive about this lens and am sure its going to be a great success.

Here are a few other images shot with the lens, all wide open on the M9.

(Me, photographed by Eric Kim at minimum focussing distance)

(shot wide open from a bit further back..)

(wide open, shooting through my friends with background about 10 metres away.)

(black and white conversion)

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Street Photography Workshop with Eric Kim - 24th-26th Feb 2012

So its finally happening!  Eric Kim is flying in from LA to host with F8 Photography a 2 day Street Photography Workshop.

There are limited places, so sign up fast if you are interested, we expect this workshop to sell out quickly, as have all Eric's workshops in Asia and over the world.

The workshop will take place from the evening of Friday 24th until the evening of Sunday 26th February 2012.

All the even details and signup information for the event are here or at the following link and from the events shortcut on the front page of our site:

How we shoot Street Photography in Hong Kong (VIDEO)

A lot of people have been asking us how we get close up pictures of people out on the streets in Hong Kong, so we decided to make a short video to show exactly how we go about getting these images. We attached our little GOPRO video camera to the top of the Leica M9, plugged in a wireless microphone to a small Zoom H1 to record the voice and then went for a walk for 2 hours round Mongkok, Yau Ma Tei and Jordan in Kowloon to see what we could shoot.

This video is a short insight into how we generally shoot our street photography, we really try not to offend anybody out on the street, some people are camera shy, that's normal, you have to just move on and not take it personally, theres millions more interesting subjects just waiting for you to photograph them...

We emphasise throughout the video the camera settings and techniques we are using, so this video hopefully can be of use to anyone that is unsure of what settings to use for fast paced street photography.

We are very interested to hear everybody's comments or critisicms as we are always striving to improve, so feel free to comment below on anything you have seen in the video or you think we should be doing differently.

Please feel free share this link on your blog, on your facebook and recommend it to friends, we are trying to get as much exposure as possible with these techniques to help anyone who wants to learn from it.

F8 Photography runs all kinds of photography training as well as upcoming street photography workshops, so if you are in Hong Kong and interested in this style of photography, contact us to register, we will soon be launching an events page with all the details of all our 'street' workshops.

If you like this post, please 'LIKE' us at the bottom of the page and Facebook via our links below.

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